University of Pretoria’s Future Africa: changing the world through African research
Future Africa is the University of Pretoria's new flagship research institute and pan-African science platform
Research is central to the long-term vision of the University of Pretoria (UP). This is to be a leading research-intensive university in Africa, recognised internationally for quality, relevance and impact; as well as for developing people, creating knowledge, and making a difference locally and globally.
UP recognises that research needs to move beyond disciplinary boundaries, build strategic partnerships and networks, and act on the social responsibility of universities. Future Africa aims to be an outstanding premier pan-African science platform for transdisciplinary research, leadership for innovation and helping to create a more sustainable and equitable world.
The hub will promote diverse multidisciplinary research by establishing multinational academic and leadership networks and communities, to conduct impactful future-focused research.
Based on the premise that such research to transform our world can and should be led by Africans, for Africa and for the world, Future Africa invites all sectors of society to partner with UP to unlock the potential of the continent.
A space for the future
From its innovative infrastructure to its crop-based gardens and the practical and aesthetic details, which have brought in synergy builders, artists, architects, botanists and environmentalists, Future Africa’s impressive campus is now one of the jewels in UP's crown. It has already brought about new possibilities for translating science into practice and impact.
The university’s strategic research priorities, and the research themes that capture Future Africa's vision of sustainability and equity and programmes focusing on developing young science leaders, are at an advanced stage.
Growing science leaders
The first basic premise of Future Africa's leadership programmes is that the quality of the leadership in the system to lead change is closely linked to the development of science capacity in Africa.
The second is that next-generation researchers are often unprepared for the complexities that an interconnected, interdisciplinary approach to science brings.
Future Africa programmes are built on the recognition that there are significant obstacles to the integration of knowledge, and require engagement across and beyond scientific boundaries.
Three programmes are aimed at a new leadership in the sciences:
- the African Science Leadership Programme, whose fifth group of young researchers from across Africa are starting their programme in March 2019;
- the Tuks Young Research Leadership Programme, a capacity development programme aimed at UP’s young researchers, now in its fourth year; and
- the newly established Early Career Research Leader Fellowship Programme, aimed at early career researchers and their supervisors, which offered its first workshop in February 2019.
An African hub for a transdisciplinary network
Within the broad science (and science policy) community, the complex challenges facing humanity are of a global nature and cannot be solved at local or individual scales alone. They require disciplinary interconnectedness drawing on a network of expertise, often from outside institutional and national boundaries.
The need for new science leadership and new transdisciplinary methods of doing science to solve these problems is driving pivotal shifts in the field.
The key to accessing new networks of knowledge and expertise, and making it available to all African scholars, is an inviting and conducive local environment and science leaders to give these connections local and continental grounding.
Creating an environment for excellence
Future Africa aspires to scholarship of the highest quality, which will contribute to global knowledge creation in basic and applied sciences, recognising both the roles of talented individuals and the importance of an interconnected, team-based approach, creating new opportunities linking the best in Africa with the best around the world.
It will create an environment that recognises that achieving excellence is a dynamic process, and it will nurture the development of thought leaders – not only as specialists in trained fields but also as leaders of integrative approaches to solving problems at institute, community, national and international levels and creating awareness of the value of diversity.
For more information about Future Africa, visit the University of Pretoria's website.
About the authors: Professor Stephanie Burton is the vice-principal for research and postgraduate education at UP and Professor Bernard Slippers is the director of the forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute at UP.
This article was paid for by the University of Pretoria.